A Failed State in Latin America

Venezuela is at the mercy of its fluids. For a country that depends on oil for 95 percent of its exports, the prolonged drop in the price of crude has been a serious financial blow. If nothing else, though, Venezuela should be able to use its oil resources to keep the lights on and the factories going. After all, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. It has more than Saudi...
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Je Suis Encore Charlie?

Charlie was a pretty good musician. He played guitar, composed songs. Dennis Wilson, the drummer and co-founder of the Beach Boys, befriended Charlie and tried to help him make it in the music industry. He arranged for the young man to make a studio album, which eventually came out in 1974. But before that, the Beach Boys recorded a tune Charlie had written for them. The song, “Never Learn Not...
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Syria’s Two-Body Problem

In medieval Europe, the king had two bodies. He sat on his throne in his own personal body, which suffered from the same sicknesses and infirmities that afflict all corporeal beings. But he also possessed a second body, the body politic, which represented the entire realm. The king served as “head of state,” a phrase that harkens back to this peculiar political theology. After the death of...
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Refugee World

To paraphrase William Gibson, the post-apocalypse is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed. Many of our post-apocalyptic stories — Mad Max, The Road, World War Z — feature desperate people on the move in a friendless and resource-poor environment. The world hasn’t ended quite yet, but these modern nomads have nearly lost hope. Something terrible has happened in the past, and...
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Authoritarian Symps

In the bad old days of the Cold War, the left and the right used to play a nasty game called “Who’s Your Favorite Dictator?” Right-wing ideologues supported authoritarian leaders like Augusto Pinochet of Chile while left-wing ideologues rhapsodized over Communist leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba. One side embraced the shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines as “our...
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Foreign Agents

It’s time for a confession. I have worked as a “foreign agent.” When I lived and traveled in Asia and Eastern Europe, I was an employee of U.S.-based NGOs. I was paid by these organizations to promote social change in those parts of the world. I worked hand-in-hand with groups that often criticized their own governments. Of course, they were also critical of U.S. policies and those of many...
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